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The Dirty Projectors

The Dirty Projectors

Interviewed by
Courtney Sanders
Monday 18th June, 2012 9:30AM

It's been three years since the Dirty Projectors released critically acclaimed album Bitte Orca. Now David Longstreth and co. are back with a similarly eclectic, more morose set of tracks in Swing Lo Magellan. We caught up with singer Amber Coffman to discuss the new release and to discover that Dirty Projectors really is David Longstreth's thing.

Hey Amber, you guys are about to go on tour for the new album, yeah? Are you looking forward to it?

I am very much, yeah.

Letís start by talking about the new album: tell us a little bit about the writing and recording process.

Hmmm. Well Dave (Longstreth) wrote all the songs up north in the woods. He started last January and spent a ton of time up there by himself working on writing the skeletons for the songs and making demos for himself. He did that for a few months during the winter of 2011. Come summer, we started putting down rhythm section stuff with some of the band members, and making better recordings of certain parts. It was a really long process, it took us a long time to get it together.

Tell us about the process between David writing the songs and you fleshing them out: what sort of input does the rest of the band have?

I mean itís different for every song. He always has a really specific sound and blend of sounds in mind for each song. So yeah, itís hard to explain but you know, itís sort of like we take it song by song and part by part really. Itís very, very detailed for every single moment of every song.

Reflecting on this album, Swing Lo Magellan, as a whole, how would you describe the sound and theme?

I donít know. I think that this album is really honest and more personal than anything David has done for a really long time. Itís about a lot of things: I donít really want to say what those are.

If you were to compare it to the last record, Bitte Orca, how would you say it is different or representative of a progression?

Itís definitely darker and itís deeper I think. Yeah I know itís really vague but the last album was really bright and exuberant and stuff, and this one is very searching, is what it is. Itís honest and searching and thoughtful I think: that sounds really stupid to say that now that Iím saying it.

In terms of channeling these emotions: does the band bring anything to the table or is it just David?

Hmm. I mean I really feel the songs and I really feel them when Iím playing them, you know, and I think everybody feels that way. Davidís the one who has created the content and the lyrics and all of that stuff for the most part. Itís a big part for us because we put our souls into it and a ton of work into it and we really care about it: we wouldnít be doing that if we didnít really feel it, so yeah. I donno, these are tough questions to answer.

The Dirty Projectors sound more generally is very eclectic. Are there a few influences you would describe as ongoing cornerstones of the Dirty Projectors sound?

Well I mean there are some things that David likes to play with at any given moment as far as putting and certain style into music go. There is a core in there that will always stay: I donít necessarily want to go off naming those influences. Sorry, Iím not explaining myself very well, my head is a little crazy right now because weíre rehearsing all day every day and I just got back from that.

Every time that David makes a record he tries to do something really different. You can still hear this Dirty Projectors sound in there but itís always going to change. He really doesnít like the idea of recycling your sound or bands becoming a parody of themselves, so heís always trying to push things onto the next thing.

You guys have been a band for quite a long time now and released a number of records. How has the dynamic of the band changed and how have you kept it together over the years?

Hmm, yeah, thatís a very good question. David has put a lot of different bands together since he started. Before I joined every album was a completely different group and then starting about five or six years ago some people started staying on and then it would be just a couple of changes each time, so thatís definitely something that switches up the dynamic. Itís tough to be on the road with the same people all the time for months and months: there are a lot of trying times. Early in the bandís life when theyíre doing these tough tours where theyíre sleeping on floors and stuff like that which we definitely did you just kind of try to communicate and do your best to keep it together and keep things honest, I guess.

And you guys are about to head out on the road touring. Is it a complex process for getting these songs ready for playing live?

That depends on the song: some of them have real simple arrangements and so itís like Ďthere we goí. Some stuff has chopped up vocals or this and that and we have to figure out a different way to do it live. ITís pretty intense getting a tour ready, especially right now for us because itís been a really long time since weíve been on the road. We took our time with this album so itís been 18 months since weíve even played the show. So weíre working on a ton of music: all the new stuff and re-working all the older songs so itís quite a process, definitely.

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